All News

Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Cast Aside Self Pity :Match their Good Defence!

Why is it when you are in times of need (I know, your contracts always seem to be in a state of need…needing a favourable lead, needing a finesse or three to work, needing just a little slice of good fortune….that the defence are there to torment you? They seem to be doing all the right things and you can just feel your contract is soon to be defeated.

Of course, you have a very selective memory and the other point which you have to admit is it is better to go down to a good piece of defence rather than a misplay of your own. All right, just a little bit better. You can at least show your face for the post mortem!

Yet, come on, a bit of positive thinking, please. Just a little planning, too, and counting tricks and you too could be recording a plus score. When game is doubtful, it is rare that making 9 tricks is a complete bottom. Sure, others may make 10 or 11 but tomorrow, they will receive an ugly lead too!

The problem

So, there you are in 3NT. Maybe you should have chosen 4Spade-small, a much better contract if they had failed to lead a heart but not hugely different from 3NT if they had.

North Deals
Both Vul
A Q 10 9 6 4
8 6 4
Q
J 6 3
   
N
W   E
S
   
 
7 3
Q 9 7
A K 4 3
A K 9 4
West North East South
  2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

2Diamond-small was a weak 2 in a major. 2NT asked the suit and comparative strength. 3Diamond-smallshowed a good weak 2 in spades. West led the Heart-small10, the worst suit for declarer. South gazed longingly at dummy and played low. Careful now as you were about to play low from your hand, too! Yet, East had contributed a thoughtful Heart-small2 ("low encourage") and you had a trick in the bank. Only 8 more to go. From where are they coming?

South did not even think that they were better off than those who had received a diamond lead. They actually had scored one heart trick! South rather bemoaned their bad luck than bless their own good fortune!

What happened?

At trick 2, South played a spade to the queen, then played a club to hand and a second spade. West played Spade-smallJ and before long, South had to lose the lead to West who played a second round of hearts with the defence having five tricks in lightning speed. South looked glum, understandably so. What should South have done?

 
North Deals
Both Vul
A Q 10 9 6 4
8 6 4
Q
J 6 3
K J 8 2
10 3
J 8 5
Q 8 7 2
 
N
W   E
S
 
5
A K J 5 2
10 9 7 6 2
10 5
 
7 3
Q 9 7
A K 4 3
A K 9 4
West North East South
  2  Pass 2 NT
Pass 3  Pass 3 NT
All pass      

 

No planning before dummy followed suit to trick 1. South probably expected to lose the first trick, maybe even the first four or five but a few seconds’ thought, maybe a prayer that the heart suit would break 4-3, a quick counting of winners, might have helped. It certainly would have done when South won the first trick.

Had hearts broken 4-3 and spades 3-2, then most lines would have succeeded apart from East having Spade-small KJx. However, one important factor made it more likely that hearts would break 5-2. That is the presence of Heart-small9 in declarer’s hand. West was not leading from a sequence and almost certainly had none of the missing high hearts. We tend to value the 10 as an important card, not to be played as an initial lead unless we have a sequence of cards.

Thus, East held Heart-smallAKJ2 and may well have another heart as well. Declarer did not, therefore, want to lose the lead before coming to 9 tricks. Yet, the spade finesse had to be taken into the East hand..no choice!

South did have a choice. They could play East for singleton Spade-smallK and lay down Spade-smallA at trick 2. The odds of this were low and with a lack of entries to the North hand, it was likely to be an unsuccessful line if no king appeared. Similarly, playing a spade to the queen, hoping for Spade-smallJ singleton in East’s hand was low percentage.

How many spade tricks did South need? They had three top diamond and two top club tricks as well as the heart trick. Declarer, thus, only needed three spade tricks. Alternatively, South could play for 5 spade tricks, a heart and some top minor cards..but that sounded like a spade trick had to be lost.. and therefore the contract.

If hearts broke 5-2, no spade must be lost…and the most likely chance of that happening was to take two spade finesses..a 25% chance if each successful one is 50%.

There was one other chance, that of the Club-smallQ falling in two rounds. Now, declarer would only need one spade finesse. However, the chance of that was much less 25%, around 16%.

South also did not play the Diamond-smallQ at trick 2. It would have been wise to do so to take advantage of the times when the Club-smallQ was doubleton… and also to take 9 tricks when West had four spades.

The line to take

So, at trick 2, unblock the Diamond-smallQ and play a club to the South hand. Now, play a spade to the 10…and hold your breath. Should that win, you can return to hand with the second club, cash your other diamond winners and repeat the spade finesse. If spades break 3-2, you may make heaps of overtricks, but when they break 4-1, you will still have 9 very welcome tricks.

That good defence

West made a very good opening lead for the defence but East also did very well at trick 1. East had no way to regain the lead if, as it looked likely, South had Heart-smallQxx. Therefore, ducking and playing an encouraging card (our East-West were playing “low encourage”, hence the Heart-small2) was essential to retain communications with their partner. Of course, South may have held a doubleton heart (East could not see Heart-small9) but then South may have chosen to play in 4Spade-small.

An unlikely line… but it worked

If you have taken the best percentage line and it fails, you have nothing to be ashamed of. When it works, you can fell very happy! Hopefully, you did this time.

Richard Solomon

One final thought. If East had five hearts to the AKJ and the Spade-smallK, they might have overcalled 2Heart-small. No guarantees but the odds were likely that the Spade-smallK was with West…hopefully Spade-smallJ too!

 

 

Go Back View All News Items

Our Sponsors
  • JLT Logo square.jpg
  • NZB Foundation
  • JLT and Chubb Logo square 02.jpg
  • Hamilton City Council logo.jpg